In last week’s lectionary passage Paul writes:
We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
In the book of Romans the Apostle Paul brings us his most significant and deepest writing. In this section of the letter Paul opens with a sweeping statement that all of creation has been groaning in labor pains. The universe has been expecting this amazing event from its very beginning. And like a woman expecting a child the event is inevitable. And like the birth of a child it is both miraculous and life giving, but also life changing and Paul is convinced even all of creation changing.
The event Paul speaks of is not the birth of Jesus (which is miraculous, and life changing for his family), but rather his death and resurrection. That is a miracle beyond the limits of our universe. That is the event that changes all things. And now the labor pains are over the universe that was pregnant from the very beginning has given birth in the events of Good Friday and Easter Sunday! From the very beginning this was the very reason for creation, which is an amazingly bold statement by Paul.
But what if we hold on to this statement what if we decide that Paul is right? What does that mean for us? First it is life changing for all who place their faith in that which God ordained from the beginning of all things. Paul then asks us not only to believe this audacious statement, but he says we now have a choice, do we want to become part of this birth or simply live our lives as if nothing happened on Easter Sunday morning? If we choose the former and choose to be adopted by Jesus (adoption in the era that Paul lived meant full adoption, the one adopted would never be referred to as an adopted son or daughter, but rather a full son or daughter with all rights given, the word adoption disappearing), we become fully children of God.
And though we cannot physically see the path that comes to us through Jesus Christ it is there. As Paul says one does not hope for what is seen, because you know it is there. Rather we hope for what we cannot see, but which can be obtained. And how do we get to this amazing place? It is by opening ourselves to the Holy Spirit. Paul tells us it is the Spirit will guide our hearts and our prayers. Our deepest sighs and deepest needs will be fulfilled by prayer when we let the Spirit guide us to become part of the greatest miracle of all times.
Perhaps what is most amazing about this passage is that Paul wrote it while he was a prisoner in Rome awaiting his death. Locked in a cell, unable to leave, limited in movement by stonewalls and metal bars, in a filthy prison, Paul flew on wings of eagles. His world seemingly smaller than we can imagine was actually larger than all of creation. Paul had found the connection to the infinite, to the meaning of all of things, to the very meaning of life, through his faith in Jesus Christ deepened, expanded and guided every minute of the day by the Holy Spirit. Talk about a miracle greater than all others, and it is only prayers away.
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